By: Upala KBR, Mid-Day
Friday, September 15, 2006
Amrita Arora is known for her bright, cheery nature. But this is one time, she lost her cool. On Tuesday, not only did her flight get held up at Sofia Airport for almost 16 hours, but she also had to face racial discrimination from the Lufthansa Airlines staff there, along with the other passengers.
What happened? Says Amrita, "I had gone to Bulgaria to shoot for a song for Hriday Shetty's Godfather. After wrapping up the shoot, I took the 5 am connecting flight via Frankfurt to Mumbai. The connecting flight to Mumbai was at 1.45 pm, but we were later told that the flight had been indefinitely delayed. From then on, the nightmare started..."
Nobody would tell them the reason why the flight had been delayed. Says Amrita, "I was pissed off by the rudeness shown by the Lufthansa staff at the airport. They were very arrogant and just wouldn't listen to us. We were in a foreign country with a language problem, so the least they could have done, was be cordial. They spoke only in German and behaved as if they couldn't understand what we were asking.
On the other hand, the white passengers were not only treated differently, but the staff was also polite with them and answered all their queries patiently. In fact, it was the white passengers who provided us with information. Till the last minute, we didn't know what was happening. It's the first time that I have witnessed such racial discrimination!" Amrita fumes .
Colour of prejudice
The actress was so infuriated by the whole episode with the airlines that she registered a complaint there. "I wanted to put in a formal complaint to their manager, but was told he wasn't available. So I put it in at their counter.
When they informed us that the flight was delayed, a passenger remarked, 'You must be joking!' Bas, the Lufthansa staff just took off on him. They were so rude! Most airlines provide rooms for passengers if a flight is delayed for more than eight hours.
But when we asked for rooms, they told us no rooms were available. When we eventually got onto the flight, a passenger asked for a hot meal and was told he would have to wait for service. That too after an ordeal of 16 hours. You can't base your behaviour on the colour of my skin!"
Does she feel racial profiling is on the rise post the London bombings last year and the recent bomb scares in August this year? "Yes, definitely. People with Muslim names are facing the heat more. As somebody remarked there, 'Today, even a white statue will get through security far more easily than a brown man.' There was a bomb scare at the Sofia airport just before our arrival so I guess they were being cautious.
We were asked to take off our socks and shoes and were not allowed to carry anything in our handbags, except our passport and documents.
But there is a limit! I really lost my cool. A sardar was separated from his group and made to come at the side while being checked. He started screaming, 'Why am I being segregated?' We were stranded for hours but nobody was apologetic about it. I have heard of racism from others, but this is the first time I have experienced it," Amu signs off.